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  #1  
Old 02-17-2010
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Contessa 34 questions

I'm looking at a 1979 Contessa 34 (yes 34, not a 32). I don't know much about this design except that Jeremy Rodgers (sp?) owned one of these and it's supposed to be a good open water racer. The one I'm looking at was stored for a long time and has recently seen just a little bit of use and seems to be in good shape. In fact, the new sails are probably worth more than the asking price of the entire boat.
My main question is this: This hull has ribbing built into it (original build), which is good, however, the process created a deformation in the hull such that the ribbing is clearly visable on the outside of the hull. Broker calls this "beer canning" and claims the survey says it does not effect the performance of the hull. The broker says the effect is only above the waterline but I haven't confirmed this yet.
Anyone know if this is a problem, other than cosmetic? Are you familiar with this design? Anything else you can tell me?
One last thing: this is an ultra light OOD with some live-aboard accommodations. I want to eventually use it for open water cruising. Is this a good choice?
Thanks, Jim
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Old 02-17-2010
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I suspect that the broker was correct but not being completely honest. I think that Oil Canning is really bad over the long term. It suggests a lack of structural integrity and that flexing will make the area flexing weak. I wouldn't like that offshore.

There are folks on here that have informed opinion (consider mine uninformed in this area) about flexing fiberglass and strength.

In this market I'm not sure I would be all that keen on this boat unless I could fix it. Now a contessa 32.....well it wouldn't have any oil canning.
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Old 02-17-2010
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I agree, there are so many good boats for sale why settle on one with what could be a big problem. Also an ultralight racer could make a good weekender but probably not a good offshore cruiser. Is it Bulldog?

Now a Contessa 32 would be a much better offshore cruiser.
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Old 02-18-2010
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Question "ood 34"

Not sure if this is what your are describing... FWIW, an OOD 34 is considered to be a tough off shore rated boat. ("Offshore One Design 34")
I have sailed on one that is now in the Bay area. Nice interior with your basic type a layout (head forward). Not many boats have a dedicated bin for a liferaft under a cockpit seat for offshore racing prep, but this boat does. Doug Peterson design.
As to the "ribbing" that was one answer to framing for FRP boats. Alternatives would be coring the whole hull.
While such terms are very subjective, I have never heard of an OOD 34 being called an ultralight.
Wonder if that is indeed what this boat is?

L
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Old 02-18-2010
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34' and 8000 lbs disp. Basically the same dimensions as a Peterson 34 but a few thousand pounds lighter. Sounds pretty light to me.
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It is Bulldog as a matter of fact. Does anyone know if this "oil canning" was common with this particular design? I haven't seen any other examples of the Contessa 34 and from what I've read they didn't make very many.

I guess I'll keep looking.
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Old 02-18-2010
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These were English built Peterson 34's and so have all of the merits and all of the major liabilities of this era of the IOR. In many ways these were one of the better designs of that period. The upside is that these boats sail very well upwind.

The downside of these boats is that they were designed to have very big crews with their weight out on the rail so they heel alot and are difficult to short-hand. The hardware of the era was pretty marginal for the huge genoas that these boats typically carried in light to moderate winds. They are boats that have a pretty uncomfortable motion. They depend heavily on a very large sail inventory to sail across normal wind speed range ((in cruising mode typically 3 to 5 jibs minimally plus two spinnakers) and their motion and tendancy to death roll can be dowright scary dead down wind.

The dimples in the hull are not necessarily anything to worry about. The English and their commonwealths, were slow to adopt liners and cored hulls, but they completely understood the issue of large unsupported panels. So, instead of coring the hull, they employed a system of closely spaced longitudinal stringers and transverse frames. These were typically glassed in by hand which was very labor intensive and so this boat building method pretty much died out, but it was a super way to build a boat.

In any event, in an effort to get primary bonds for the internal framing, the frames were glassed in while the boats were in the molds and before the polyetser had completed its full-cure period (typically weeks). A minor problem with this system is that the hull panels distort a bit between the framing members as the resin's finish their cure cycle and shrink to their final dimension resulting in small non structural dimples in the hull.

These dimples are typically in no way structural. In fact this construction technique produced a very strong, durable, light weight hull. That said, you still need a qualified surveyor to check the hull on any race boat this age.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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Jeff,
What you say corresponds pretty closely to what the broker said. Broker said the down wind motion was "uncomfortable" and that it sailed into the wind exceptionally well. He also said the "oil canning" was the result of the way they laminated the ribs. something about the different ways the panels and ribs cured. But it is not structural. Seems he was being very honest.

The biggest problem I have is that I would want to be able to single hand this at times in open water or, at most, sail with a 3 person crue. From what you're saying I would have to do a major re-rigging and it still might not be do-able without the weight hanging over the rail.

Still at $29 grand (or better) it is tempting.
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These boats can be single-handed but they are very tough boats to short hand in changeable conditions. If you are skilled sailor and had a custom sail inventory designed, it could be made to work. I would suggest that you P.M. Catamount who a very knowledgeable sailor who is doing a beautiful job restoring a Peterson 34 and who has been short-handly sailing his Peterson 34.

Jeff
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Old 02-18-2010
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Jeff: Didn't Contessa sort of pioneer vacuum resin infusion for sailboats, with the 32 and 34 being some of the earliest attempt? I read (somewhere, forget where) they did that to keep the resin-to-glass ratio low and the semi-ULDB 34's low weight is a result of it; but also that the process was still experimental and a few 34s had dry spots in the layup. Have you encountered hull trouble in early vac-bag boats? Was bagging also an attempt to address another problem you mentioned, that of getting good layups in deep, thin, one-piece keels and skegs?

Bulldog is a lovely thing, well-kept with very few hours on the original engine. Which might speak to its sailing qualities. OTOH, it's been on the market for awhile at only $25k, which seems odd for a well-regarded name like Contessa.

Easy on the eyes.
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